Whether your breakouts are in the form of blackheads or red, raised bumps that appear on the surface, finding the best acne treatment for you depends on the type and severity of your blemishes. Mild noninflammatory acne (aka comedonal), which includes whiteheads and blackheads, is usually cleared with OTC treatments containing ingredients like salicylic acid, while moderate to severe inflammatory acne requires a prescription-strength topical retinoid or oral antibiotics from your dermatologist.
A good place to start is with a foaming cleanser that helps unclog pores and reduce excess oil, such as this trusted formula from CeraVe. “Oil-free cleansers are important for clearing and preventing blemishes,” says Dr. Carin Litani, a Mohs surgeon and board-certified dermatologist. “Also, avoid products with gritty textures, which can irritate skin and enlarge pores.”
For those that have more severe acne, a spot treatment can help clear and prevent future breakouts. These acne spot treatments deliver a high concentration of ingredients directly to the blemish. A lot of these formulas contain varying percentages of benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which both work as chemical exfoliators by dissolving some of the intercellular ‘glue’ that holds dead skin cells together and allows them to slough off more easily, as cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller explained in a previous Allure article.
Insider Reviews senior editor Mara Leighton swears by this over-the-counter spot treatment, which contains a powerful retinoid that fights blackheads and prevents them from coming back. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce redness and inflammation, plus it boosts cell turnover so your pores are less likely to get clogged in the first place. Just make sure to lather on a sunblock since retinoids can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. best acne treatment